Personal Essays

Getting by with a little help from my friends

It seems that our Indian summer has finally exhausted all its energy after spinning itself out, right to the very end of October. This week the mercury is hovering just above zero, and we had a tiny flurry of snow early Sunday morning. It didn’t stick, but it served its purpose, like the barely audible frisson of violin music in a movie—an ominous whisper of things to come.

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I think I’ve finally settled into my new routine. Regular office hours, French class two evenings a week (Est-ce que tu es fatiguée? Oui, je suis fatiguée), the occasional pub night or dinner out. I’m finding my way around pretty well on the metro, and learning to get my bearings even without mountains for landmarks. I’ve discovered pretty little lanes and parks in my neighbourhood, and a handy boulangerie where I can stop for a chocolate-almond croissant on the way to work.

But I’ve been feeling a little bit like a stranger to myself lately. Maybe it has something to do with being in a new place. I observed a while ago that home and identity are very closely intertwined…when one undergoes any kind of change, usually the other one does, too. Add that to the fact that another birthday is creeping up on me. I do enjoy my birthday, but can’t ignore the fact that each one is bringing me closer to forty, and I don’t know yet how I feel about that. Turning thirty was magical; I felt “instantly fabulous,” as a friend of mine put it. I guess I’m afraid that forty might not quite measure up.

But always things happen to remind me that there is much to be thankful for. I’m working, and I come home every night to a hot, home-cooked dinner (thanks, Mom!) I’ve chatted with some Vancouver friends on Skype—oh, the marvels of modern technology—to see their faces and hear their voices. And today I made a new friend…a nice Irish woman with hair a lovely shade of dark reddish-brown. She’s about my age, and like me, she’s a relative newcomer to Montreal, hoping to find a permanent job eventually, and in the meantime, struggling to learn the language and find her feet. As we bonded over cups of chocolat chaud, I thought of what George Eliot once wrote: “What do we live for, if it is not to make life less difficult for each other?” What else are family and friends for? Thank God for them—both the old and the new.

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